President Joe Biden is taking heat for his administration’s immigration plan. Some people have suggested that the President’s policies are responsible for the rising number of people seeking to enter the country illegally. Meanwhile, President Biden wants to more quickly move hundreds of migrant children and teens out of cramped detention facilities at the Mexico border.
While the number of migrants approaching the border has been rising for several years, 2021 has seen a new statistic. In recent weeks, the number of unaccompanied minors has dramatically increased. That has strained the ability of Customs and Border Protection to hold them in detention facilities until they can be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS houses the youths until they can be placed with relatives or sponsors. This gives the government time to decide whether the minors have a legal claim for residency—either under asylum or for some other reason.
The government reports nearly 5,000 children in Border Patrol custody as of last Tuesday. There were an additional 11,551 at HHS shelters.
Last week, reporters at President Biden’s first news conference since taking office pressed repeatedly on the border issue.
The President notes that his administration, like President Donald Trump’s, is expelling most adults and families under a public health order imposed at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. President Biden believes the difference is that his administration is allowing teens and children to stay in the country—at least temporarily.
“The only people we’re not going to let be left sitting there on the other side of the Rio Grande by themselves with no help are children,” President Biden says.
The situation along the U.S.-Mexico border drew more questions than any other subject at the maiden news conference. The issue has become an early challenge for the Biden administration. Recent policies are straining already slim government resources during the pandemic. The new policies include support for new immigration legislation while halting border wall construction.
The volume of attempted border crossings is at the highest level since a spring 2019 surge under former President Trump. And the figures appear to be rising. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas recently warned the numbers are on pace to hit a 20-year peak.
President Biden hopes to portray the spike as a seasonal problem and not a result of his policies. “It happens every year,” he says.
Security officials stopped more than 100,000 migrants crossing the border in February. Most were single adults. They were quickly turned back. President Biden says the United States is working on the immigration issue with the Mexican government.
Former acting security secretary Chad Wolf suggests President Biden has invited the current crisis. “He took away all of the consequences. At the same time, he began to message that it was perfectly acceptable to come,” he says.
For his part, President Biden condemns the Trump-era requirement that migrants await their asylum claims in Mexico as “sitting on the edge of the Rio Grande in a muddy circumstance with not enough to eat.” He also criticizes an earlier policy of separating children from their families at the border. He argues that it’s conditions in people’s home countries that push them to the U.S. border. He says, “It’s because of earthquakes, floods. It’s because of lack of food. It’s because of gang violence.”
The United States isn’t the only country wrestling with a surge of immigrants and asylum seekers. Border problems worldwide have plagued nations for centuries. What do you see as possible solutions? What do you think a biblical attitude toward immigrants should be?
(Migrants walk on a dirt road after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, in Mission, Texas. AP/Julio Cortez)